Blog post

Designing a new EU-Turkey strategic gas partnership

The 2014 Ukraine crisis reinforced the EU’s quest for security of gas supply. The European Commission released an Energy Union Communication in Febru

Publishing date
02 July 2015

The Southern Gas Corridor in the EU gas security of supply architecture


Source: Bruegel.

In the last decade, the failure of the Nabucco pipeline project, combined with EU vagueness about the opening of the accession process’ energy chapter, has brought EU-Turkey energy relations to a dead-end. This situation is in the strategic interest of neither the EU nor Turkey. A coherent and actively coordinated strategy on the SGC could allow the two players to strengthen gas cooperation with Azerbaijan (to date the only prospective supplier of the SGC) and to open new, realistic, cooperation avenues with other potential suppliers in the region: Turkmenistan, Iran and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

The Southern Gas Corridor: reserves and pipeline projects


Source: Bruegel.

The EU and Turkey share considerable geopolitical synergies in the region, that if accurately exploited might helpunlock future gas exports from the region to their respective markets. If each potential supplier contributes 10 bcm/y by 2025-2030 the corridor might ultimately be expanded to 50 bcm/y: a significant order of magnitude for EU gas markets, most notably for southern and eastern European markets.

The Southern Gas Corridor: a potential scenario


Source: Bruegel.

But how can the EU secure such a “proactive transition”? First of all, the EU should establish dedicated energy diplomacy task forces with Turkey and with each potential supplier. This would allow the EU and Turkey to make full use of complementary diplomatic leverages in the region, and thus to ensure that barriers halting regional gas trade are overcome. The four task forces (EU-Turkey-Azerbaijan; EU-Turkey-Turkmenistan; EU-Turkey-Iran; EU-Turkey-KRI) would represent the key pillars of a new EU-Turkey strategic gas partnership.

In parallel to energy diplomacy, the EU and Turkey should establish a dedicated financing mechanism  for gas infrastructure investments, with a primary focus on upgrading the Turkish gas grid (through which new volumes of gas from regional suppliers might also flow to the Turkish-EU border). The European Investment Bank (EIB) could play a key role in attracting private and institutional investors, through its wide set of financing tools. The four “EU-Turkey Energy Diplomacy Task-Forces” and the “EU-Turkey Gas Infrastructure Financing Initiative” would act under the common framework of the “EU-Turkey Strategic High Level Energy Dialogue” recently launched by the Vice-President Šefčovič and Minister Yildiz.

A new EU-Turkey strategic energy partnership


Source: Bruegel.

Any new EU-Turkey cooperation efforts on the SGC should focus on small, but feasible, bilateral projects, instead of multilateral mega-projects that, as in the case of Nabucco, have proved to be problematic in this complex regional context. The target should not be to provide new major supply alternatives for Turkish and European natural gas markets in the short term; this would be unfeasible, as realistically an expansion of the SGC will not take place before 2025-2030. Its target should rather be to secure the basis for the expansion of the Corridor in the medium term.

Tested cooperation, with relatively limited gas volumes and up to four different supply sources will do most for Europe’s long term security of supply. It is not possible to foresee the political situation in any of the source countries, but cooperation would enable Europe to increase import capacity relatively quickly, from the most appropriate sources at that point in time. Investing today in the option of expanding imports from four different sources works, without having to commit to importing gas-volumes that are currently not (and might never be) needed.


About the authors

  • Georg Zachmann

    Georg Zachmann is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, where he has worked since 2009 on energy and climate policy. His work focuses on regional and distributional impacts of decarbonisation, the analysis and design of carbon, gas and electricity markets, and EU energy and climate policies. Previously, he worked at the German Ministry of Finance, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, the energy think tank LARSEN in Paris, and the policy consultancy Berlin Economics.

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of EU Energy and Climate Policy at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the EU climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, also in leading journals such as Nature and Science, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and co-author of The Macroeconomics of Decarbonisation (Cambridge University Press, 2024).

    His columns and policy work are widely published and cited in leading international media such as the BBC, CNN, Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Corriere della Sera, Le Monde, El Pais, and several others.

    Simone also is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). He holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

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